The CEO of Whole Foods has come out and said that “Food is Health” – not “Food as Pleasure” – will be the retailer’s new focus for the future. (Check out the headlines on DJN!) Here’s a retailer whose stores are full of the most delectable confections imagineable telling us: “Tsk, Tsk! You shouldn’t be indulging.” It strikes me that this sudden new tilt toward austerity could harm Whole Foods and what it has come to stand for. Over the past several years, it worked mighty hard to imprint itself on customers’ minds as THE place to find the yummiest foods – fresh and packaged alike. Want a full-fat cheese cake topped with glazed fruits? Go to Whole Foods’ extensive bakery section. Want a thick steaming slab of homemade pizza with the dreamiest of toppings and cheese oozing off the sides? Try Whole Foods’s prepared food area. Broke but hungry for lunch? Drop by Whole Foods and try the free cheese-and-cracker samples, or the upscale tortilla chips and fancy salsa dip scattered around the store. No need for lunch now! But no – the chief executive officer, John Mackey, now tells us this is all wrong. We should be eating healthy. Food’s not fun, it keeps us alive. We’ll wait and see if Whole Foods actually changes its tempting food line-up, scuttling the tasty stuff in favor of actual whole foods. If the profit motive prevails, it will simply drape its normal inventory in a health-food marketing message. A genuine and dramatic inventory shift could send customers running back to old-fashioned supermarkets. Yeah, we eat because we have to – but we eat delicious food because we want to. And let’s not forget that good food is an affordable luxury of the sort Americans just might not want to forego as the economy recovers.
The Eastern Townships area of Quebec is known for many things – its food reminds some of Normandy, not only in its freshness but the wonderful dairy products, especially the cheese . The lakes and rolling countryside remind me of the New England yesteryear – when towns were not overcrowded and the waterways were not jammed with high testosterone boats (everyone had to outdo everyone with the biggest boats and biggest horsepower – size and loudness seemed to matter most).
The Eastern Townships have a little of everything for everyone. There is an abbey to visit, St. Benoit du Lac, where one can meditate during vespers at 5 p.m. each day – so peaceful listening to the Gregorian chants. And the monks make a very good blue cheese as well as delicious apple cider (hard cider). There are bicycle trails throughout the region. Parks for hiking. The people are friendly. The antique shops are many. Nice little dining finds as well as bakeries.
And the wine.
This is a story not only about food but how to run a small, small business.
There is an industrial section of Montreal called Verdun. You walk down the main street, Wellington, and you see a consignment store here, a dollar store there. No Hermes on this roadway. But it just happens to house a remarkable restaurant that has been open for a little less than six months. It probably shouldn’t be considered remarkable that the restaurant, Mas Cuisine, is so good. The chef owner, Michel Ross, was a co-owner of another popular Montrea restaurant called Brunoise, which in several short years jumped up to the number one ranking in Zagat. And then in late 2007, it was closed.
American appetite for home-cooked and home-baked food has boosted J.M. Smucker Co.’s earnings: the firm’s fiscal 4Q earnings more than doubled and exceeded analysts’ expectations, DJN’s Kerry E. Grace reports. Big help came from its recently acquired Folger’s coffee brand; Smucker managed to increase the brand’s profit margins – perhaps a sign that people are brewing their own rather than buying from Starbucks and the like. Smucker’s also benefiting from penny-pinching people’s propensity to enjoy homemade pancakes – the company owns Hungry Jack – and cookies courtesy of Pillsbury mixes and Crisco oils. Not to mention peanut butter sandwiches (Jif’s also owned by Smucker) instead of deli fare.
The folks at Smithfield Foods hate ethanol. It’s not that they feel a need to weigh in on the debate about whether ethanol really contributes to less greenhouse gases. They hate it because it sucks so much of the annual corn production away from the livestock industry (they estimate about 30% of the U.S. corn crop is being diverted to ethanol production. The means higher food costs for companies like Smithfield, which if not passed on to the consumer spells quarterly losses – like the $78.8 million loss Smithfield reported for the 4q earlier today.
The WSJ reports on the growth of single-serve coffee “pods” and brewing machines. “The cartridge machines serve one cup of coffee each time from prepackaged pods,” Carolyn Cui writes. “In recent years they have grown in popularity at home and offices, due to the combination of the quality of the coffee and the convenience of the pods.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124148278143685431.html#mod=testMod
Last year, “portioned coffee consumption soared about 20%, much faster than the overall coffee market,” the WSJ reports, citing Richard Girardot, chief executive of Nestle Nespresso SA. This is Nestle Group’s “portioned coffee unit” and Nestle’s fastest-growing brand, according to the WSJ. Continue reading…